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Svetlana Alexievich writes to Lydia Cacho - Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2019

Friday 15 November 2019 - 9:30am

Lydia Cacho

When you have been fighting those who are seemingly all-powerful it is easy to believe that the battle will never be won. I know this feeling, my dear Lydia, because I have felt it too. When your culture has been forged in war and barricades, as mine has been, words like freedom and love can feel like they belong in fairy tales only. You will know this feeling better than most. Over the last forty years I have travelled collecting other people’s stories – sometimes I have been shocked and frightened, wishing I could forget what I had heard. My friends and I, we are trying to resist the all-consuming darkness that is enveloping us, and so are you. You too are a collector of peoples’ stories: not only have you exposed the worst of humanity, but you have also shown us a way forward. You don’t simply share them, you also tell us what actions we must take to bring about real change.

I have been reading about the dizzying array of threats and harassment you have faced for telling the truth. And even more astounding, that the more you tell stories, the more you expose yourself, the more you make yourself vulnerable. But where most would be afraid, you endured and fought back.

When your home was attacked and your dogs killed, instead of being cowed into silence you said: ‘Like many journalists, I focus on human rights, gender equality, feminism, a perspective that embraces the rights of men, women, girls and boys. And I won’t stop. We have to move from indignation to action.’

In my own long journey having seen all that we are capable of perpetrating against one another, it is women like you who fill me with hope. You are not alone, dear Lydia, and neither am I. We are many, and when we stand together, we cannot be silenced. It is a great comfort to me to know that, in these callous times, when writers are criminalised and murdered, when you see darkness, instead of turning away, you illuminate it.